“You’re either with us or against us.” — Benito Mussolini
First the UCP demanded the Premier ignore the rules of the House, then they accused her of being against rural Albertans and siding with the criminals because she refused to ignore the rules of the House.
Do these guys even know the rules of the House?
Or are they so desperate to win brownie points with their supporters that they’ll incinerate any rules that stand in their way. I’m guessing the latter but with the UCP you can never be too sure.
The set up
It was pure UCP stagecraft.
- The UCP trundled in 100 rural Albertans to sit in the Legislature and witness the heartless government refuse to stand up for rural Albertans besieged by rising rural crime.
- The UCP abused the rules governing Question Period and the rules governing emergency debates by asking the Premier to support the UCP’s motion for an emergency debate on rural crime before the motion for an emergency debate had been ruled upon by the Speaker.
- When the Premier refused to go along with this stunt, they condemned her in true Trumpian fashion as being against rural Albertans and siding with the criminals.
After the first round of stagecraft ended, the UCP set up its motion for an emergency debate on a matter of “urgent public importance” namely: the increase in property-related and violent crimes in rural communities and the residents’ fear for their safety was sufficient to support a state of emergency.
Parliamentary rules allow the House to set aside regular business and have an emergency debate if the motion satisfies the “urgency test”.
The UCP argued the motion should pass because crime rates had risen sharply in some areas and rural Albertans felt unsafe.
The Government said the motion should fail because it did not meet the definition of urgency and could be addressed by other legislative means.
The Government relied on precedents. Speaker Zwozdesky granted an emergency debate on medevac services because they were going to be relocated the very next day. Speaker Kowalski denied an emergency debate about Premier Redford’s choice of lawyers in the tobacco litigation because the issue could be raised by other ways (eg private members’ bills, private members’ motions, and well-crafted questions in Question Period).
The Speaker denied the motion, saying Albertans’ safety and feelings of safety were of utmost importance and crime statistics were rising, but the UCP failed to meet the definition of “urgency” set out in the rules.
The UCP flew into high dudgeon.
Knowing the UCP this is understandable. Why would they rely on private members’ bills, motions, and questions in Question Period when they can use the Legislature as a platform on which to grandstand?
But leaving aside grandstanding for the moment, what is the state of rural crime?
The UCP position
The UCP provided examples of Albertans victimized in their homes and businesses. They set out statistics showing crime on the rise in some areas including Red Deer which ranks #5 in a Macleans survey of the most dangerous places to live in Canada.
The UCP said the Government is soft on crime. They argued:
- There is insufficient RCMP coverage
- The RCMP are poorly paid, morale is low
- There aren’t enough prosecutors and judges
- The Government failed to promote minimum sentencing
- Protection for rural areas should be the same as for urban areas
It would appear there is a problem with rising rural crime. What’s not clear is the UCP’s contention that the Government failed to address it.
The Government’s position
The Government outlined what it’s doing to combat rural crime:
- Funding the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team after its funding was cut by Jason Kenney when he was in Harper’s cabinet (ALERT is effective, it recently laid 120 charges against 11 individuals for drug trafficking)
- Providing $500 million for policing and paying 70% of the RCMP’s costs
- Hiring an additional 50 prosecutors and court staff and building a new court house in Red Deer
- Pressing the federal government to appoint more judges after Harper’s government left Alberta with the lowest number of superior court judges per capita in Canada
- Targeting online sexual exploitation of children
- Creating an integrated crime reduction unit to target property crime in rural Alberta
The Government also noted that some of the UCP’s complaints (RCMP coverage, minimum sentencing, appointment of judges) fell under federal, not provincial jurisdiction.
They asked the UCP to explain how it would decrease rural crime given Jason Kenney’s promise to cut the budget by 20%; this would damage the criminal justice system, not enhance it.
The real enemy
The UCP proposed no solutions to address rural crime. Instead they engaged in theatrics to paint the NDP Government as the enemy and themselves as the savior of rural Albertans.
But answer me this, who’s the real the enemy of rural Albertans, the Government who’s providing sustainable funding for the criminal justice system or the UCP who promise to reduce it by 20%?